Welcome to the new column, "Pushing the Envelope," that I'll be writing for Mailing Systems Technology. I'll use this space to muse on current postal events, hot-button issues in the mailing industry and the broader policies and strategies that shape this nation's postal system. As you may have noticed from past articles, I'm likely to make a reference or two to sports and/or popular culture, while hitting home the importance of a viable U.S. Postal Service. It's a serious topic, but it doesn't mean the writing has to be boring. You can't change someone's mind if you can't get him or her to read your opinion.

I did not start my career in the Postal Service, so I can't claim to bleed postal blue. But I've spent the past 14 years covering the mailing industry, first as Editor of Business Mailers Review newsletter and then as Vice President of the Association for Postal Commerce. I recently started my own communications company, where I continue to write about postal issues. So I have a good sense of what's happening, what's important and why we need to pay attention. Maybe I don't officially bleed postal blue, but I caught the postal bug, and it runs through my veins. I am sure this is true for many of you, too.

Most of you care deeply about the industry you work in. You want and need the Postal Service to grow and flourish. For many companies, such as direct mailers, catalog companies and other retailers, the Postal Service's success is necessary for their health. Some of you might work for companies that don't see themselves as being in the "mailing business" at all - banks, utilities, insurance companies, colleges and universities or other organizations where "mail" is an ancillary activity. Your job is to get the mail out the door every day at the lowest possible cost and with the best possible service. An efficient and effective Postal Service is needed for these companies as well. So, we all share the common bond of wanting and needing a successful U.S. Postal Service.

In many ways, I feel like we are all part of a big postal family; sometimes a bit dysfunctional, other times critical of each other - but always caring about the overall system. I am not so naïve as to think that we are completely altruistic. Mailers need to keep the interests of their companies in mind when making mailing and shipping decisions. But the overall success of the Postal Service is something the entire industry supports. How we get there, well, that's the hard part.

As we work our way through this difficult economic period, the challenges this industry faces are even greater. The USPS is no longer in a steady growth mode. Some argue that it has already fallen into a "shrinking mode." I'm worried the USPS cannot "grow the business" sufficiently to recover the expected losses in volume and revenue over the next few years. That doesn't mean it shouldn't try. It must try. And we need to help. As its partners, and as companies with a vested interest in a successful postal system, we have to find ways to pave a path to success. We'll disagree sometimes. We'll ague and bicker. But we'll care, so we won't stop trying. Just like a family.

Kate Muth is President of Muth Communications, a writing, editing and consulting firm. She has written on postal topics for the past 14 years. You can reach her at katemuth@comcast.net.